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Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 3GB Video Card tested with Catalyst 12.2

We check out the latest HD 7950 to arrive in our labs from Sapphire and see how it goes with the first official WHQL HD 7900 series driver.

@TweakTown
Published Wed, Mar 21 2012 11:23 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction and Package

Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 3GB Video Card tested with Catalyst 12.2 02 | TweakTown.com
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At the launch of the new HD 7950 we checked out a pair of pre-overclocked Sapphire cards in CrossFire. Today we check out the other HD 7950 the company is offering and see how it goes with the latest WHQL driver from AMD which is the first official driver for the HD 7900 series.

Outside of our normal Catalyst article we expanded upon our testing when we looked at the Diamond HD 7970 where we tested our complete benchmark line up on the latest driver and found some nice improvements.

Having not yet tested the HD 7950 with the latest driver we figured with another HD 7950 arriving, this was a good opportunity to see what was going on with the latest driver and the HD 7950. Of course we haven't looked at the Sapphire card we've got here today, so there's a few things we need to do.

The first thing we need to look at is the bundle to see what Sapphire is offering us in that department. Once we've done that we'll move onto the card and see just exactly what's going on before checking out the specifications. Once we've done that we'll quickly cover our testbed and then simply get stuck into the performance side of things.

Package

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Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 3GB Video Card tested with Catalyst 12.2 04 | TweakTown.com
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In typical Sapphire fashion we've got a pretty nice bundle going on here. Alongside the standard paperwork and driver CD we've got CrossFire connector, two Molex to 6-pin PCI Express power connectors, HDMI cable, MiniDP to DP connector, DVI to VGA connector and finally a HDMI to DVI connector to round out the bundle.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 3GB Video Card tested with Catalyst 12.2 07 | TweakTown.com
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Checking out the card you can see this one isn't quite as fancy as the other Sapphire HD 7950 we looked out. Outside of the cooler, though, there are no changes with two 6-pin PCI Express power connectors at the back of the card and two CrossFire connectors at the front.

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Finally we finish off on the I/O side of things where we find a Dual Link DVI connector, HDMI port and two MiniDP connectors to round off the back of the card.

Specifications

Looking at the specifications of the Sapphire HD 7950 here today you can see that they've chosen to overclock the core by 10MHz. Normally we'd be annoyed with such a small overclock, but Sapphire don't actually market the card as an "Overclocked" edition version.

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As for the 3GB of GDDR5 memory nothing changes there with the default 5GHz QDR clock being present. Because today, though, we wanted to compare this card against the reference clocked HIS card we looked at which carried the default 800MHz clock, we've bumped the core down to the default 800MHz clock. This just makes our comparison fair in our benchmarks today.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS and Corsair.

Looking above you can see our testbed and in typical fashion there shouldn't be anything that you haven't seen from us before as we've been using the X79 platform for a while. Before we get into the performance, though, let's just quickly look at what cards will be in our graphs today.

The main comparison we want to make today is to see how our two reference clocked HD 7950s go against each other when comparing the original launch driver and the first official WHQL driver.

Alongside that we've got two HD 7970s showing the difference the new driver made along with the GTX 570 and GTX 580 from NVIDIA to help round out our line up here today.

Let's get started!

The FPS Numbers Explained

When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.

30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.

60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.

120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.

Benchmarks - 3DMark 11

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Starting off with 3DMark 11 we don't see anything really change in overall performance when comparing the two drivers. The only difference is a bit of fluctuation.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com

Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Moving onto Heaven we can see a little boost in performance at both resolutions like we saw out of the HD 7970.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test

Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx

Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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Moving into H.A.W.X. 2, we can see a couple of extra FPS across the board. Better than the HD 7970 which took a bit of a hit at the lower resolutions and saw an increase only come through at the highest resolution test.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/

Buy It Here

Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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Like the HD 7970 we can see the new driver doesn't do anything for performance under Mafia II with numbers being almost even across the board.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1

Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Checking out Lost Planet 2 performance we can see a little bit of fluctuation. Ultimately you wouldn't call a win or loss to either driver, though, as the numbers are pretty similar across the board.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/

Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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While the HD 7970 saw some nice gains under Aliens vs. Predator with the new driver, the HD 7950 didn't get the same benefit. You can see across the board the FPS is near identical at every resolution.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.2

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

Developer Homepage: http://www.eidos.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.justcause.com/

Just Cause 2 employs the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause. The game is set on the other side of the world from the original Just Cause, on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Panau has varied terrain, from desert to alpine to rainforest. Rico Rodriguez returns as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.

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Like the HD 7970 we can see that across the board we've just got a consistent 1 FPS bump in performance. While consistent, though, an extra FPS isn't anything to get excited about. Saying that, though, we move just a single FPS away from that 60 FPS number at 2560 x 1600, which is nice.

Benchmarks - Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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Like Just Cause 2 we can see we've got a consistent single FPS being seen at every resolution. The HD 7970 on the other hand managed to gain a couple of FPS across each resolution.

Benchmarks - Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.dirt3game.com/

DiRT 3 boasts more cars, more locations, more routes and more events than any other game in the series, including over 50 rally cars representing the very best from five decades of the sport. With more than double the track content of 2009's hit, DiRT 3 will see players start at the top as a professional driver, with a top-flight career in competitive off-road racing complimented by the opportunity to express themselves in Gymkhana-style showpiece driving events.

Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 3GB Video Card tested with Catalyst 12.2 28 | TweakTown.com

We can again see an extra FPS at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200, but the gains aren't like the HD 7970, which saw a nice little jump in FPS with the best being an extra 8 FPS.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/

Buy It Here

The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 3GB Video Card tested with Catalyst 12.2 29 | TweakTown.com

Far Cry 2 for the most part is up across the board. The only time we see a slight dip is the 1680 x 1050 minimum. Apart from that everything else is up by a couple of FPS or the same.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

While we test all our games with maximum in-game settings, turning on Anti-Aliasing (AA) and Antistrophic Filtering (AF) helps take the intensity of our testing to another level.

Here we see video cards go from playable FPS to an unplayable FPS and the real power houses continue to help break that 60 FPS mark we always aim for to provide a smooth gaming experience.

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Apart from a little bit of movement under Far Cry 2, we can see that performance across the board is pretty much identical.

Temperature Test

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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Checking out the temperature of the card we can see the numbers are pretty healthy with this being another cool running Sapphire offering.

Sound Test

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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Moving onto noise levels we can see the card is sitting around the middle of the pack. It's obvious that the cooler isn't quite as fancy as some of the other HD 7950s we've looked at.

Power Consumption Test

Using our PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 3GB Video Card tested with Catalyst 12.2 42 | TweakTown.com

Power draw holds no surprises with the Sapphire offering sitting around that mid 300 watt mark.

Final Thoughts

As far as the Sapphire HD 7950 goes there's nothing here that is going to blow your mind. This is just another HD 7950 that comes in at that $459 price point, and while a little boring compared to some of the other HD 7950s we've looked including the original Sapphire offering, this is still a really nice card that hits in at a good price because of the small overclock and single fan cooler.

As for the driver side of things; there's not much going on when it comes to looking at them on the HD 7950. We often see a slight bump here and there, but nothing to major. On the other hand we saw the HD 7970 benefit a little more, saying that we'd still recommend you installed the latest WHQL driver on a HD 7950 as it's the latest driver from AMD.

For the most part, there's not much else that needs to be said. If you want a HD 7950 that comes in at the MSRP price point that AMD launched at this is a nice offering that has a good quality cooler. It's not as exciting as some of the others we've looked at, but they come in at a higher price point.

At the same time if you're interested in getting some extra performance you can install MSI Afterburner or use Sapphire's own Trixx software and have some fun overclocking to push the speed to levels beyond most pre-overclocked cards.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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